While the winter hot stove season typically surrounds action involving free agents, the Los Angeles Dodgers jumped into the rumor mill this weekend with a little trade speculation.
The Reds are an interesting case because it appears as if the team wants to significantly cut payroll right when they seemed to be on a bit of an upswing.
After having an Opening Day payroll of less than $60 million in 2020, the Reds made their move in 2021 with a $120 million mark, seriously hoping to contend for a spot in the postseason. However, the club finished in third place in the NL Central with an 83-79 record, leaving ownership to seriously consider a new plan moving forward.
Cincinnati surprised a lot of people with their offensive punch — see Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez and Jonathan India — but they never quite lived up to their expectations in the pitching department, finishing 20th in the majors in overall team ERA.
Pundits speculate that the effects that COVID had on teams — especially the smaller market clubs — is finally rearing its ugly head, forcing teams like Cincinnati to take a step back on spending.
Whatever the case may be, Castillo could be a huge bargain, depending on what Cincinnati wants in return. The 28-year-old righty is owed just $7.5 million in 2022 and is under control for the 2023 season.
In 2021, Castillo was tied for the league lead in starts with 33, suggesting outstanding inning-eating and durability qualities. He also made 30-plus starts in his 2018 and 2019 campaigns. Last year, he finished with a 4.7 WAR, 3.98 ERA and a 3.75 FIP with a 9.2 K/9 over 187-2/3 innings pitched.
The 32-year-old Gray is owed $10.2 million in 2022 and an even $12 million in 2023 before becoming eligible for free agency in 2024. Last year, Gray’s numbers were on the disappointing side, as he posted a 3.3 WAR, a 4.19 ERA and a 3.99 FIP over 26 starts and 135 innings of work. Nevertheless, the righty’s 10.2 K/9 was the third highest of his career, suggesting there could still be a little left in the tank.
While some trends indicate the end of the traditional starting pitcher might be near, the Dodgers have not shown any signs from steering away from a normal five-man crew. As it stands, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Andrew Heaney and Tony Gonsolin should be contenders for 2022 Opening Day rotation spots.
Veteran lefty David Price may also be a contender, although he was never really stretched out fully despite his many efforts as an opener last year. Price was included on the 2021 NLDS roster against the Giants, but the team decided not to add him to the NLCS roster, instead opting for left-handed relievers Alex Vesia and Justin Bruihl.
Dodgers fans everywhere are hoping the team makes legitimate efforts to bring back both Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, although it still remains to be seen how Trevor Bauer and the $34 million he’s owed in 2022 will impact the team budget for next season.